Thursday, November 26, 2015

Helping all kids

How an effort to boost Center City schools could help all kinds of kids

Helping all kids


(The blog has been dark for a while, but I am back from vacation and plan to write more often. So get reading!)

A while back, I wrote about an effort by parents and the school district to raise money and improve programming and community connections at the 12 elementary schools that the district runs in Center City, broadly defined as the area between the two rivers, from Girard Avenue to Tasker Street.

Some readers expressed concern that this effort would not help poor children. Here are a few reasons I think the program, if it succeeds, will help all kinds of kids:

1) Of the 12 schools on the list, Meredith Elementary in Queen Village is among the most sought-after. Parents are paying premiums for houses in the Meredith catchment.

But even at Meredith, smack in the middle of one of the city's better-off neighborhoods, nearly half the kids are economically disadvantaged, according to school district data.

Most other schools participating in the new group, which calls itself the Greater Center City Neighborhood School Coalition, have even more economically disadvantaged children. At Gen. Philip Kearny School, 601 Fairmount Ave., the number is 89 percent. At George Washington Elementary, on 5th Street, just south of Washington Ave., it's 85 percent.

(Such high numbers do make me wonder how good the data are. If you know anything about that, send the information my way.)

2) Coalition organizers, led by Christine Carlson, a parent at Greenfield Elementary, say this is a pilot project. If they are successful, they hope other community groups will create similar programs with the district.

3) Small is beautiful, especially when the problem is big. How many of you think we can fix the whole district at once, especially in an era of budget cuts? I thought so. But some individual schools already have succeeded at adding an arts program, or English-language instruction for students from other countries. The coalition aims to do more of this.

Finally, it makes no sense to turn away people who want to help. I'm not saying there is no reason for concern, just that when you weigh the costs and benefits, a coalition like this seems worth a try.

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Miriam Hill
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